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Originally published Saturday, May 14, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Bringing bliss into the bedroom

Admit it. We're a society of weary heads. Given the pace of modern life, most of us are racing the clock from the moment we wake until we hit the pillow at night.

Special to The Seattle Times

"O bed! O bed! delicious bed!
That heaven upon earth to the weary head."

— Thomas Hood

Admit it. We're a society of weary heads. Given the pace of modern life, most of us are racing the clock from the moment we wake until we hit the pillow at night.

Between carpool duty, trips to the grocery store and 'round-the-clock availability thanks to e-mail and cellphones, we're overworked, overtired and overstressed.

Enter the bedroom. It promises peace and sweet dreams, yet many of our rooms are nightmares. Where's the peace? Who can find a sweet dream amid the jumble of clothes, magazines, briefcases, pet beds and kids' schoolwork?

Bedding glossary

Fancy names like "duvet" and "coverlet" aside, here's a guide to help you find all your bedding needs.

Bed-in-a-bag: A pre-assembled set that includes a comforter, bed ruffle, sheets, sham and pillowcases.

Bedskirt: Also called a duster, this is a flat piece of fabric with a ruffle or attached skirt on three sides. It covers the boxspring and bed legs.

Bedspread: A thin decorative blanket or other bed covering that does just that: covers the mattress, box spring and bed pillows.

Comforter: Two pieces of fabric stitched together and filled with natural or synthetic filling. A comforter typically covers the top and sides of a mattress but not the bed pillows or entire box spring.

Coverlet: Similar to a comforter, this is a thin decorative bed cover. It is great for warmer months because it is lightweight.

Duvet cover: Also called a quilt cover, this is a big pillowcase-like covering that fits over a comforter. It is closed on one end by buttons, a zipper or ties.

Featherbed: A big feather-filled cushion placed on top of the mattress for added softness.

Flat and fitted sheets: The former is the "top" sheet; the latter the "bottom" sheet.

Hypoallergenic: An item that is unlikely to cause allergies.

Mattress pad: A mattress cover that protects the mattress from soiling and moisture.

Pillow sham: A decorative pillow covering.

Thread count: The number of threads woven lengthwise and widthwise into a square inch of fabric. Tighter weaves (or the higher the number) mean more comfort and durability. Most luxury sheets, for example, start around 300 count.

Today, we increasingly crave bedrooms that deliver the goods — with style.

Not only do we want a restful night's sleep, we also want a place to calm jagged nerves, to read in or to share a quiet kiss with a loved one. We want refuge from the chaos lying just beyond the bedroom door.

If you dream of a bedroom oasis but your nightly hideaway looks more like Grand Central Station, take heart. A few simple changes can transform even a wreck of a room into a peaceful retreat.

Clear the clutter

You can't unwind if you're constantly reminded of clothes that need folding (you know, the ones hanging on the exercise bike in the corner), or bills that need paying (over there, piling up on that desk), or stacks of library books already a month overdue (the ones you turned into a bedside table).

A bedroom is where you go to "shut the world out, a place where you can unplug or disconnect," says Sammamish interior designer Susan Corrado.

Known for making bedrooms feel like safe havens, Corrado encourages her clients to define the primary functions of their rooms (sleeping, reading, romance and so on), and then strip away any distractions. This means no laptops, home offices or gym equipment in the bedroom.

Remember, the goal is to relax and renew, not to catch up on your e-mail or tighten your abs.

When a bedroom is truly a retreat, "it enhances the well-being" of its occupants, Corrado adds.

Paint the walls

Perhaps the quickest route to bedroom nirvana is through a coat of paint. Changing your room's wall color will change its emotional vibe in a New York minute. Soothing blues and tranquil greens are among the latest top choices for bedroom colors. But they're not the only ones.

There are no standard bedroom colors. While many people feel at ease with very little color around, others need the visual stimulation of rich or cheerful colors for comfort.

Whether you choose a soft, neutral palette or something more full-bodied, Corrado suggests sticking with colors that are grayed, muted or complex in nature. For a sanctuary-like feel in the bedroom, she says, avoid those "in-your-face" colors.


TOM REESE / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The platform bed by Richter Furniture starts at $1,920 at Seva in Seattle. On the bed, the Fieldcrest Luxury Silk Jacquard Scroll Quilt (in ivory) is $149.99 (queen), and the Fieldcrest Pintuck duvet cover (in green) is $119.99 (queen), both available at Target. The Lulu side table by Oly is $640, and the box lamp by Jeffrey Dodd is $273, both at Seva.

Focus on the bed

When it comes to the bed, know it is the focal point of the room. Even if yours overlooks Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, the Space Needle or another gorgeous view, the bed still trumps.

Whether queen- or king-size, treat your bed like a star. Give it the royal treatment and showcase it.

If it helps, think of the bed as a diva. And just like a diva, your bed will have a list of demands:

• Make me comfortable. Outfit your bed with an excellent mattress, box springs and pillows.

• Make me cozy. Choose natural-fiber bedding that's warm enough for winter, breathable in summer and feels good against your skin.

• Make me decadent. Dress the bed with the very best linens you can afford and top it with a luscious collection of decorative pillows.

• Make me, please! After all, you'll feel less stressed if your bed is neat and tidy.

If you have to pinch pennies, the bed is not the place to do so. You want your room to resonate with the look and feel of a luxury hotel suite or a charming B&B. So live a little!

Lighten up

Day or night, lighting is crucial to a bedroom's sense of serenity. For her clients, Corrado uses multiple layers of light and distributes them around the room. An overhead fixture or chandelier, for example, gives ambient light, while a bedside reading lamp provides good task lighting.

Accent lights, like those that wash over a favorite art piece, or that cast shadows from behind a ficus tree, create mood. And natural sunlight spilling through a window can't be beat.

What's important, Corrado says, is that bedroom lighting be soft, never jarring. When possible, put your lights on dimmer switches for maximum control.

Finishing touches

How else to achieve Zen-like bedrooms? Corrado recommends window dressing.

What are you sleeping on?

Craftmatic Adjustable? Sleep Number? Old college futon? What works for you, what doesn't, and what are you dying to know about mattresses? homegarden@seattletimes.com

"It doesn't have to be austere or frou-frou," she says, adding that drapery and other window treatments help with light and privacy issues, as well as enhance a room's acoustic quality by absorbing sound.

Finally, a room wouldn't be any kind of retreat without the things you love in it. So while you're surrounding yourself with a great paint color, a sumptuous bed with all the trimmings, lighting done right and a little fabric at the window, don't forget to personalize your bedroom with the things you hold dear — pictures of your kids, souvenirs from your travels, treasured family heirlooms.

Whatever makes you happy deserves to be part of your sanctuary.

Robyne L. Curry is a Seattle interior designer and freelance writer. E-mail: robyne@robynecurryinteriors.com.

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